All requirements applicable to electrical equipment are stated in the EU directives and regulations, as well in the respective national legislation. In this regard, there are several directives needed to be considered in the event of CE marking electrical products. They are, as follows: LVD (Low Voltage Directive), EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive), RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive), Ecodesign Directive, Energy Labelling Directive, ATEX Directive, WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), Battery and Accumulator Directive, and others.
Today, the focus of our attention will be the LVD (Low Voltage Directive). We'll look closely at its purpose, scope, safety objectives, conditions of placing electrical equipment on the EU market, and more. Continue reading to become more familiar with the Directive and find out if it applies to your product or not.
I. Definition & Purpose of LVD
LVD (2014/35/EU) is a “New Approach” Directive, which came into force on 20 April 2016. The new LVD replaced the old LVD (2006/95/EC), a codifying directive, combining the “original” LVD (73/23/EEC) and all of its subsequent amendments. The principal elements of the former Directive (2006/95/EC), including its scope and safety objectives, have remained valid for the new Directive (2014/35/EU). However, part of the Directive’s content is new and created as a result of the New Legislative Framework (NLF). It relates mainly to definitions and obligations of economic operators, the creation of a new Committee, and reinforced operations of market surveillance authorities.
Similarly to the previous Directive (2006/95/EC), the new LVD (2014/35/EU) shall be seen as a “total harmonised safety Directive” because it covers not only the electrical risks but all safety aspects as well. The Directive shall supersede any present national legislation in the field covered: electrical equipment shall be placed on the market if it complies with the Directive’s requirements, and Member States shall not impede free circulation or the marketing of complying equipment regarding the LVD's scope.
The primary purpose of the LVD (2014/35/EU) is to assure that all products defined as electrical equipment and placed on the EU market are safe for use and don’t endanger the health of anyone nearby, e.g. consumers, domestic animals, real estate property, etc. The Low Voltage Directive guarantees the products’ safety when they are installed, utilised and serviced correctly.
II. Scope of LVD
The LVD (2014/35/EU) has the same scope as the previous Low Voltage Directive (2006/95/EC). It provides the harmonised standards and procedures that all products placed on the EU market need to comply with. The products can be either electrical equipment manufactured within the EU zone or electrical equipment imported from outside of the Union.
Within the scope of the Directive are included specific obligations for the manufacturer, importer or distributor or, in other words, the person who places the electrical equipment on the EU market.
The LVD’s has the following scope, including electrical equipment used within certain voltage limits:
- all electrical equipment requiring a rated voltage range of 50 to 1000 volts with alternating current;
- electrical equipment, operating within a rated voltage range of 75 to 1 500 volts with a direct current.
In this regard, the phrase “rated voltage” refers not to the voltages present within the equipment, but to the supply and output voltage. Therefore, the electrical equipment can have internally higher voltages. Products, having multiple voltage ratings, are considered within the LVD’s scope as long as the highest of the voltage ratings falls within the allowed voltage rating. All other electrical equipment products which exceed 1000V AC or 1500V DC are considered outside of the Directive’s scope.
In a broad sense, LVD apply to all consumer and capital goods, operating within the above-mentioned voltage limits, such as lighting equipment, switch and control gears, electrical appliances, electrical wiring, electrical motors and alternators, cable management systems, electrical installation equipment and others.
Moreover, within the LVD’s scope are also included components intended for incorporation into other electrical equipment. Here, manufacturers need to be able to undertake a risk assessment procedure to guarantee the safety incorporation of the elements, and further CE mark them. Such components are electrical motors, transformers, etc.
Electrical products not included within the scope of the LVD and covered by other CE directives are, as follows:
- all electrical equipment used in a potentially explosive environment;
- electrical products which usage is related to the medical and radiological field;
- electrical fragments for lifts;
- electric fence controllers;
- electricity meters;
- plug and socket-outlets for domestic usage;
- specialised electrical equipment for railways, ships or aircraft;
It’s of importance to note that the LVD and Machinery Directive are mutually exclusive given the presence of same electrical safety requirements. Thus, only one of both CE directives should apply to products placed on the EU market and defined as electrical equipment. The choice between the applicable directives can be in some cases made by the manufacturer.
III. Safety aspects covered by the LVD (2014/35/EU)
All risks that could arise from the utilisation of electrical equipment, such as mechanical, chemical (especially, emission of aggressive substances) and others, are covered by the Low Voltage Directive. Within the scope of safety aspects are also included possible health issues appearing from noise and vibrations, as well as ergonomic aspects. In this regard, the ergonomic aspects are in case there is a need for ergonomic requirements ensuring protection against hazards in the sense of the Directive.
Furthermore, LVD also covers radiation aspects as long as they’re limited to those related to the health and safety of consumers, domestic animals and properties. Radiation aspects covering electromagnetic disturbances in the sense of EMC Directive are not included in the LVD’s scope.
Lastly, all electromagnetic aspects, including the effect of electromagnetic fields, emitted by electrical equipment, are covered by the LVD.
As overall, the LVD (2014/35/EU) has 10 safety objectives, split into three groups, representing the essential requirements of this Directive:
1. General conditions:
- The recognition and observance of the essential characteristics shall guarantee the safety and proper utilization of electrical equipment, and they shall be marked on the electrical equipment or on an accompanying document.
- The manufacturing of the electrical equipment, along with any component parts, shall ensure its safely and properly assembling.
- The design and manufacturing of the electrical equipment shall be made in such a way as to guarantee the protection against hazards, outlined in the following 2 groups of safety objectives.
2. Protection against hazards arising from the electrical equipment.
- Ensuring adequate protection of people and domestic animals against the danger of physical injury in direct or indirect contact.
- Ensuring safety levels of any temperatures, arcs or radiation produced by the electrical equipment.
- Adequate protection of people, domestic animals and properties against non-electrical dangers (e.g. sharp edges) appeared as a result of using the electrical equipment.
- Suitable insulation for predictable conditions.
3. Protection against hazards possibly caused by external factors on the electrical equipment.
- The electrical equipment shall comply with all mechanical requirements necessary for ensuring the safety of people, domestic animals and properties. For instance, ensuring the provision of any adequate housing needed so that the electrical equipment can withstand various mechanical influences.
- The products shall have good resistance so that any possible non-mechanical influences arising from expected environmental conditions could not endanger the safety of subjects or objects nearby. For example, considering meteorological phenomena (e.g. rain) when electrical equipment can be used outdoors.
- The electrical equipment doesn’t endanger people, domestic animals and properties in predictable conditions of overload. For instance, providing a circuit breaker for overcurrent protection to cables with a limited maximum current.
IV. Mandatory safety requirements for placing electrical equipment on the EU market
In cases when manufacturers want to make available their electrical equipment on the market, they need to comply with the following conditions laid down in the Directive:
- All products must be constructed following principles constituting a good engineering practice in regards to safety matters. The principles shall be accepted within the EU. The design and manufacturing of the electrical equipment must be in accordance with state of the art.
- The design and construction of the electrical equipment must comply with the principal elements of the LDV’s safety objectives. Any national standards or specifications related to the electrical equipment’s safety are not mandatory conditions for its introduction to the EU market.
- The product shall not endanger the health and safety of people or damage properties. When installing, maintaining and using the product, the users must follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Electrical equipment is presumed to conform to the safety objectives of the LVD when the same has been manufactured following the technical standards laid down in the Directive, which are as follows:
- Harmonised standards drawn up by notified bodies of the Member States.
- In cases when harmonised standards don’t exist, two international bodies have the responsibility to issue international standards. These international bodies are the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC) and the International Commission on the rules for the approval of electrical equipment (CEE).
- When harmonised or international standards haven’t yet been published, manufacturers shall comply with the national standards of the Member State.
The application of harmonised, international or national standards is not mandatory, but it’s one of the best ways to provide a presumption of conformity for electrical equipment.
As an alternative to the technical standards, the products may be built in a way that they meet the LVD’s essential requirements but without the need to be applied harmonised, national or international standards. In such cases, the manufacturers are obligated to include additional documentation in the technical file that presents a description of the solutions used to satisfy the LVD’s safety objectives.
To ensure and declare the LVD compliance of electrical equipment, manufacturers must follow the conformity assessment procedure described in the Directive which consists of the following elements:
- Technical fine - includes all technical documentation and its provision determines whether a product complies with the requirements of the LVD. In case no LVD’s standards have been applied, manufacturers also need to provide a description of all solutions adopted to satisfy the safety objectives of the Low Voltage Directive. Moreover, sometimes the market surveillance authorities can challenge the conformity of electrical equipment. When this happens, manufacturers can provide a report created by a notified body that confirms the CE compliance of the product.
- Declaration of Conformity - creating and signing a Declaration of Conformity before placing the electrical equipment on the market.
- CE mark - affixing the “CE” label on the product.